Passing the torch on and on

Corey Johnson to Carl Nassib

by Judy Wieder

There are some interesting overlapping news-makers in the headlines. One is the first “active NFL player saying he is gay,” and the other is a NYC Council Speaker publicly saying he believes “Ranked-Choice Voting” is great for Democracy. 

The connection?

The NYC Council Speaker (my old friend) Corey Johnson made national headlines in 2000 when, while co-captain of the Madconomet Regional High School football team, he publicly came out as gay. His story was reported by major national news outlets, including The Advocate,  The New York Times and 20/20.

Today Corey Johnson, who is running for NYC comptroller, said that he thought, Ranked Choice Voting  “…is actually better for democracy. There will be more consensus among voters.” This, of course, is controversial. 

But Corey doesn’t blink at controversy anymore.  He’s an old pro, though it was never an easy ride. When he came out  it as a gay high school football coach, he was pretty much alone in the big spotlight:

‘’Someday I want to get beyond being that gay football captain,” Corey said at the time, “but for now I need to get out there and show these machismo athletes who run high schools that you don’t have to do drama or be a drum major to be gay. It could be someone who looks just like them.’’

And like a prophesy, the universe was listening: Someone who was only eight-years-old when Corey’s very public High School coming-out occurred, National Football League defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, Carl Nassib, from West Chester PA, just broke through the closet door so many gay players have unsuccessfully charged for years. 

The Raiders defensive lineman came out in a video posted on social media, also announcing he would donate $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention efforts for L.G.B.T.Q. youth. 

“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in a video posted to his Instagram account. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary, but until then I’m going to do my best and my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate.”

Nassib, 28, thanked his coaches, teammates and the N.F.L. for their support. “I would not be able to do this without them.”

Football has always been one of the most difficult spaces to be seen as LGBTQ. Of course there are LGBTQ players! There always have been. But becoming visible? That takes people of such strength and purpose, beware the team that scores them!

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